Early in the morning of April 30, 1976, after playing a two-and-a-half hour concert in Memphis, Tennessee, Bruce Springsteen took a cab to Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion and jumped the gate in an attempt to meet his boyhood idol. At the time Springsteen was a star; his album Born to Run ( 1975) was a hit, and he had been on the covers of both Time and Newsweek. But the guard who emerged from the bushes to remove the intruder didn't know him. "He thought I was just another crazy fan," Springsteen said. "Which I was" ( Marsh 1979, 193).
Springsteen's identification with Elvis, even after becoming a national rock star, represents the extent to which fandom is basic to participation in rock- 'n'roll. Fandom has always been part of rock'n'roll's myth, appeal, and strength. Over the years, hundreds of teenagers like Springsteen, stuck in dead-end towns without much hope for the future, have found meaning and escape by identifying with a rock performer. Especially today, when rock music has achieved massive popularity and established success, fandom has become a vital element of rock'n'roll culture. In the sixties and seventies, rock was the anthem of youth; now younger and older generations share the music. The music business used to market "teen idols" specifically to youth audiences; today, the business markets all sorts of music stars as a basic strategy, from securing magazine interviews to sponsoring syndicated radio shows that give people a chance to call their favorite musicians and ask questions. In addition to the hundreds of official fan clubs for music artists set up by their management and record companies, there are, at any given time, hundreds of unofficial clubs run by a few interested fans out of their homes (see Trinajstick 1993). Fanzines, newsletters, or computer networks exist for practically every star in the business, old and new, from Tony Bennett to Baby Face. 1